After almost two decades of pursuing improvements in U.S. education through the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Gates maintains a sweeping and grand ambition. His goal for the next 20 years, he says, is to graduate roughly twice as many kids from college, move the United States up in the international rankings, and do so without spending more money. It's as if Gates wants to apply a version of Moore's law (in which the number of transistors that can fit on an integrated circuit double every two years) to education.
Gates: In K-12, we're in an era where, unfortunately, we're not going to be able to increase the amount of resources, because state budgets are tight and medical costs are constantly increasing. So can we get more out of $600 billion a year? No Child Left Behind [the annual testing program started in 2002] let us know that we weren't doing very well. But it was fairly minor in terms of identifying particular ways of solving the problem. [emphasis mine]First of all, maybe we could do something about those medical costs. You know, like the rest of the industrialized world, which spends far less than we do and gets better results?
There are roughly 300 million people in the US, and we spend about $8,200 on each for health care. If we could cut that back to about $4,900 - which would still make us #4 in health care spending - we'd save about a trillion dollars. Hold that thought...
Second, maybe we should consider taxing people like you more Bill. After all, you and your fellows at the very, very top are taking more of the money:
While paying historically low effective tax rates.
So, Bill, we could - if you'd allow us - greatly decrease our health care costs and greatly increase our revenue collections. What could we do with all of this money?
Here's a thought: you send your own kids to your high school alma mater, the Lakeside School in Seattle. Tuition at Lakeside is $27,250 a year - and that's not even spending per pupil, because it doesn't include gifts and endowments. Further, Lakeside doesn't educate the children with severe or even moderate learning disabilities, or for whom English is a second language, or are autistic, or have severe physical disabilities, or who live in poverty.
Contrast this to the average $11,467 we spend on each public school child.
Right now we spend about $570 billion per year on public education. Which means it would take about a trillion more dollars a year to get the per pupil spending for public school children close to the level that the Gates children enjoy (and that's a very conservative estimate).
A trillion dollars... oh, yeah, what we could save on health care and still be #4 in per capita spending! And that wouldn't even cost you a penny; imagine how much more we could do if we started taxing you at higher rates...
I'd rather not...
ADDING: If you haven't watched this yet, do yourself a favor: